The West Susitna Industrial Access Road
The West Susitna Access Road is a proposed 100-mile mining access road through the currently roadless area west of the Susitna River (1).
In total, the proposed West Su Mining Access Road will consist of:
156 stream crossings
145 of which will get culverts.
90 of which will be designed for fish passage.
11 bridges with 4 complex bridges (2).
AIDEA estimates this project to cost $450 million (2). This does not include pre-project funding from AIDEA’s uncommitted state budget that has already been spent on the Phase I and Phase II MOUs as well as the upcoming Phase III MOU.
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While three routes were considered during the Phase II MOU (3), The Port Mackenzie route through Rainy Pass was determined the most viable. This route would run from Port Mackenzie to the Estelle Mining District near Rainy Pass in the Eastern Alaska Range (2).
The industrial mining road would traverse a vast swath of the Susitna River Watershed, an area of rich biological diversity, with abundant and sensitive fish and wildlife habitat. Several rivers and creeks are designated Recreation Rivers (Learn more about Recreation Rivers HERE). The land is the traditional territory of the Ahtna and Dena’ina peoples and remains in use today. The land west of the Susitna River is also the location of many cultural heritage sites of high interest. Furthermore, the proposed mining road travels near sections of the historic Iditarod Trail. This region is significant to many, and any resource extraction project that impacts it warrants both careful public engagement and consideration of environmental harm.
AIDEA is a state agency that was created in the late 1960s that aims to “encourage economic growth and diversification(1).” It is comprised of a non-elected board that maintains the capacity to allocate large amounts of state money to development and drive large-scale projects with minimal public oversight, input, or accountability.
AIDEA has a poor track record with investing in dead-end projects like the Mustang Project, the Alaska Seafood International- Seafood Processing Facility, and Healy Clean Coal (4).
In presentation to public meeting, AIDEA frequently does not mention their partners with NOVA Minerals. Most recently, during the Phase II MOU presentation to the Mat Su Borough, Nova and their Alaskan Subsidiaries were not publicly mentioned as investors in the project (2).
NOVA Minerals and its Alaskan subsidiaries are an Australian gold mining company with claims in the Estelle Mining District.
The Road is likely necessary to make their exploration and gold mining efforts a viable enterprise.
NOVA Minerals mentions AIDEA multiple times as a partner on their website in regards to their Estelle Mining district exploration.
(Screenshots from the Nova Minerals website taken on Friday, April 9, 2021 at 2:45 PM)
Mat Su Borough:
The Mat Su Borough has entered into the Phase I and II MOU with AIDEA and NOVA minerals and will vote on entering the Phase III MOU in early summer of 2021 (5) .
The road is being developed to open a large mining district in remote Alaska. AIDEA reports that the mine will benefit mining claims in the Estelle mining district, open up timber and agricultural lands, and provide increased recreation (2). Despite these claims, there are no indications of how the road will be paid for, how it will be maintained, if the road will be public, and how agricultural and timber sales will be handled (2).
Many Alaskans, including nearby residents who would be impacted, Indigenous peoples whose traditional land the road would go through, local lodge and business owners, and people concerned with the health of the watershed, advocated for a more clear and open public process, as well as changes to the understanding that would protect the ecosystems that we rely on.